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US coal exports have second best year ever, as strong demand attracts buyers

US coal exports totaled 104.9 million mt in 2018, up 19.3% from 2017 and the second highest total on record, according to US Census data out.

The 2018 total was second only to the 114.2 million mt exported in 2012.

US producers benefited in 2018 from strong international markets, which helped increase demand. US thermal coal typically trades at a discount to global benchmarks because of higher sulfur content, while US metallurgical coal is particularly valued for its coking properties. In addition, a number of US thermal coal producers benefited from a partial petcoke ban in India, which also stoked demand.

For comparison, the S&P Global Platts CIF ARA assessment, for thermal coal (basis 6,000 kcal/kg) delivered into Northern Europe averaged $91.69/mt in 2018 compared with $84.78/mt in 2017, while the Platts assessment for Premium Low Vol met coal FOB Australia averaged $207.11/mt in 2018 compared with $187.99/mt in 2017.

US met coal exports for the year totaled 55.8 million mt, up 11.3% from last year, and the highest total since 2014, when 57.2 million mt were exported. Met coal exports peaked in 2012 at 63.4 million mt.

The top three export destinations for US met coal in 2018 were Brazil, at 7.6 million mt, up 14.9% from 2017; the Netherlands, at 5.6 million mt, up 82.5% from last year; and Japan, at 5.4 million mt, up 20.4%.

The top three Census districts for US met coal exports in 2018 were Norfolk, at 31.8 million mt, up 19.2% from 2017; Mobile, at 9.7 million mt, up 9.5% from last year; and Baltimore, at 9.4 million mt, down 2.3%.

THERMAL EXPORTS

US thermal coal exports in 2018 totaled 49.1 million mt in 2018, up 29.8% from last year. It was the highest total since 2012, when thermal exports peaked at 50.8 million mt.

The top three export destinations for US thermal coal in 2018 were India, at 10.5 million mt, up 53% from 2017; South Korean, at 5.8 million mt, up 9.6% from last year; and the Netherlands, at 5.6 million mt, up 3.2%.

The top three Census districts for US thermal coal exports in 2018 were New Orleans, at 17.6 million mt, up 75% from last year; Baltimore, at 10.1 million mt, up 9.5% from 2017; and Seattle, at 6 million mt, up 10.6%.
Source: Platts

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